NEW MEDIA PERFORMANCE ART FAIRS TAIWAN
Taiwan-born, US-based artist Chin Chih Yang was invited by the International Chinese Fine Arts Council (ICFAC) to perform his interactive work Broken Mind at Art Taipei 2011 in an attempt to bring an “eye-opening” art experience to a Taiwanese audience.
The new media work Broken Mind (2011) was originally developed by Yang during his participation in the Byrdcliffe Artist in Residence Program, a program supported by the New York Foundation for the Arts. A great proponent of public art, Chin Chih Yang believes the multidisciplinary interactive work was selected by ICFAC as one of the two pieces the non-profit organisation showcased at Art Taipei 2011 because this kind of work “isn’t common in the Asian art community” as “most Asian art is highly commercial”.
Click here to watch a video documenting the performance of Broken Mind by Chin Chih Yang at Art Taipei 2011, then read on for our interview with the artist in which he discusses the processes and themes that lie behind the work.
Broken Mind, broken society – interview Chin Chih Yang
I would like to focus on the piece that you performed at Art Taipei 2011, called Broken Mind. Can you describe the content of the projections in this performance?
In general, the projection consists of images of things that happen in our everyday, human world, and also of natural disasters that are beyond our control: man-made and natural disasters. This includes images of everyday vices, both sociological and industrial, images of, for example, drug addiction, gambling and the waste products that result from certain modes of contemporary manufacturing. Such imagery is essential to what Broken Mind is about thematically.
Why do you choose to deal with disasters, man-made or natural? Does it come back to the ideas that you hope to explore in The Control of Fear (2005-ongoing), a work in which you will look at how people respond when confronted with a catastrophic situation?
The Control of Fear is still a work in progress although, as far as the technology that is involved, Broken Mind can be considered as a kind of offshoot of The Control of Fear… part one.
Broken Mind is more social, it’s an interactive performance, while The Control of Fear looks at how we deal with our environment. Broken Mind deals with our relationship to one another, The Control of Fear deals with our relationship to the natural world.
[Broken Mind] satirises the plight of the individual in contemporary society, showing an exaggerated yet honest portrayal of our confusion amidst the chaos that surrounds us daily. So yes, with Broken Mind I am looking at how people respond when confronted with catastrophic situations, but perhaps more so I am commenting on how people already respond with a bewildering confusion, and showing that because of this response they cannot rationally react, stripped as they are both of personality and political power. [The performance] can be considered as a kind of caricature of how our social environment over-adulterates us, from the cradle to the grave.
Broken Mind also deals with globalisation and the fact that individual economies can’t catch up with the connectedness binding different societies today. This creates a form of confusion, socially apparent, that the performance takes into account. We are undermined because we have no time to think about what it means to be human. Our future is cancelled, or at least people think less about future generations and the future of the natural world.
Are you using Broken Mind as a tool to give your audience time to think?
It is an interactive performance, so sure, I can direct the content presented to the audience and create discussions. The audience is provided with the opportunity to think about the contemporary world in a new way. Broken Mind ensures the issues presented in the projected images are given a voice and gives audiences the chance to ‘re-think’ their world.
You have said that the ability to project while moving, taking moving and still image out of a traditional theatre or gallery environment, is important to you. Do you use mobile projection as a tool with which to bring these issues into the public domain in a confronting way?
Exactly. [I use mobile projection] because it brings these issues into the public domain in a very direct way. These issues are conveyed to us everyday [through television news channels], so it makes sense to comment on them using the same medium.
In this performance you project your images onto people. Can you give me some examples of the different reactions you witnessed from the people you projected images onto?
People … like the interactivity of the performance. The kind of directness of Broken Mind is unique for people, particularly as most audience members are expecting a contemplative art experience. They are shocked and surprised, and compelled to evaluate their prior expectations.
The images are distorted when projected onto the various surfaces. Does this affect the message in any way? Was this distortion something you considered before beginning the performance?
The performance is in development and, right now, it is at a stage where the imagery is sometimes distorted. Embracing the spontaneous, the unpredictable and sometimes even the undesirable is an essential part of interactive art. … In the future, Broken Mind will be a very different kind of project.
How will the project change?
The only thing that I will keep will be the video. The suit may change, becoming stationary, and the audience will eventually be able to select the imagery themselves. I continually modify my projects to heighten their level of interactivity.
[Editor’s note: Broken Mind has developed from a series of projects that used roving projection as their primary medium. The first of these works was called Gordian Knot and was performed in 2005.]
Christmas tree lights are attached to the vehicles that you use in each of your projection pieces, whether that vehicle is a truck, wheelchair or a suit that you wear. Why do you use Christmas tree lights in your work?
I use them to make the projects more attractive and interesting for the audience. The concept of light has a symbolic value that interests me, [symbolising a] ‘lighting of our future’. Lately, I have been using LEDs in place of Christmas tree lights.
Are LED light bulbs used on the suit that you are wearing for your performance of Broken Mind at Art Taipei 2011? Can you describe what else is attached to the suit and why you have chosen to use those materials?
Yes, [LEDs are attached to the suit], as are industrial cables. … The title of the project derives from a phrase in Taiwanese that refers to a mind that is ‘broken’ because it is ‘electrically shocked’. The materials used on the suit flesh this concept out in a physical way.
What is the ‘electric shock’ the project attempts to deal out? Is it embodied in the images and ‘realities’ that you are projecting?
The phrase refers to confusion in general: astonishment or sudden mental pain.
[Editor’s note: Chin Chih Yang also stated that the origins of the meaning of this Taiwanese expression stem from a Japanese saying, translated from English, that means ‘the head has experienced a short circuit’.]
How does this expression relate to the concepts you explore in Broken Mind?
There is not a one-to-one correspondence between the concepts in Broken Mind and those of the expression. My Taiwanese background and my American experiences are the vehicles for my ideas. The phrase, and the way in which I draw inspiration from it, is a part of that experience.
You mentioned earlier that audience interaction is an integral part of your work and your practice overall. What do you talk to your audiences about? Do you respond directly to the questions that people ask you?
In this modern, high-tech lifestyle, we tend to miss out on face-to-face encounters with others. Face-to-face interaction is important for my practice because it works against the alienation that is typical of our time. Traditional art creation and display … is not enough to make contemporary audiences pay attention. Contemporary artists need to learn to communicate with their audiences!
People ask why I create performance work, and how I can possibly market or sell the kind of art works that I produce. These questions can be answered easily if one reflects on my tendency to confront, through my art, the ills of industrialised commercialisation and on how, in a way, I challenge the status quo by using the detritus of mass consumption as the raw material for my art.
Is performance your preferred medium?
My projects are not just performances; performance is just one element of my work. I would prefer that my work be called ‘multidisciplinary’ because I use many media in the same project. What kind of media? I will use whatever medium I need to in order to communicate my ideas.
How do you typically document your performances?
My work needs to be documented using video and photography. Sometimes I document my work in ways that may seem strange or crude. … Many people have suggested that I find a professional photographer or videographer to work with, but I am happy with way in which I currently document my work. I want my audiences to see life as it goes through its own independent processes, in whatever form or manner it eventually chooses.
About Chin Chih Yang
Originally from Banciao in Taiwan, Chin Chih Yang (b. 1956) is a multidisciplinary artist with interests in public art, ecology and constructed environments. He has lived in America for over thirty years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Parsons and a Master of Science from the Pratt Institute.
Among other honours he has been a recipient of the Urban Artists Initiative Fellowship, awarded to him by the New York Foundation for the Arts, a fellowship from the New York State Council for the Arts and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council granted him a Swing Space residency at Governors Island.
His interactive performances and installations have been exhibited in museums and galleries including the Chelsea and Queens Museums in New York, the Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Exit Art and the Flux Factory.
- Asian artists bring cross-disciplinary work to New York’s Performa 11 – August 2011 – work by stars of the Asian art world Shirin Neshat and Ming Wong, among others
- Sand-covered Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang’s Phnom Penh lake performance – August 2011 – Samnang questions urban development through the medium of performance
- Mella Jaarsma in rare Manila performance art residency – August 2011 – one of four artists to take part in this Manila Contemporary-run event
- Work of 3 Chinese artists gets first time MoMA showing in performance photography exhibit – curator interview – May 2011 – on photographs by Ai Weiwei, Rong Rong and Huang Yan
- Taiwan eco-art exhibition Going Green tours America – curator interview – January 2011 – Chin Chih Yang was among the Taiwanese artists participating in this ambitious exhibition
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